Kevin Pietersen has been handed a monthlong opportunity to exploit the absence of his rivals and stake his claim for an Ashes Test place after being named in England's one-day squad.
The Hampshire batsman has been included in a 14-man party which will contest England's first ever Twenty20 international, against Australia at the Rose Bowl on June 13, as well as the Nat-West Triangular series which follows, as he attempts to recapture the form which helped him hit three centuries during the 4-1 series defeat in South Africa last winter.
Those displays put him in contention for a place in England's Test side, which was denied him by the prolific early-season form of Warwickshire's Ian Bell and the selectors' loyalty to experienced Surrey left-hander Graham Thorpe for the crushing opening Test win over Bangladesh at Lord's.
Those two players were included in the squad for the second Test, which begins at Chester-le-Street on Friday, but neither were selected in England's plans for a monthlong programme of one-day cricket. Pietersen can take advantage of their absence to put pressure on the selectors for the opening Test against
Australia, holders of the Ashes, at Lord's on July 21.
Thorpe has retired from one-day international cricket and will play his 100th Test this week but he may also have irritated the selectors by
the timing of his announcement that he would not be available to England this winter and would, instead, be accepting an offer to play for New South Wales.
Chairman of selectors David Graveney said yesterday: "There has been a lot written about Graham's decision and I would say right from the outset that the selectors were a little disappointed about the timing of that announcement.
"There's been a lot of speculation about Graham, but most people would not have expected him to be available for the winter anyway. The most important and relevant fact is whether Graham Thorpe is the right person to play in the best team.
"He's experienced and his achievements are welldocumented but he will know he has to maintain his form throughout the summer, like all the batsmen do, because there is competition out there from people like Kevin Pietersen and Robert Key."
Unlike his other rivals --Kent batsman Key included --Pietersen will be in the public eye for at least a month with a succession of one-day matches in the triangular tournament against Bangladesh and Australia. He will hope to be included in another squad, yet to be named, for the three- match series against Australia.
It is a massive advantage and, while Thorpe, Bell and Key do their best to impress in county cricket, Pietersen has a clear field to show his abilities against Australia's superb line-up.
He already has influential supporters in Hampshire captain Shane Warne, who has been urging his inclusion for the Ashes, while Australian captain Ricky Ponting has expressed his surprise that Pietersen is not already in England's Test line-up.
"Kevin Pietersen will challenge because he is a talent," admitted Graveney. "But there are others like Robert Key, who has been in outstanding form and they will all be knocking on the door."
The fitness of left-arm spinner Ashley Giles also remains a concern, although England are hopeful he can recover to play a full part in the one-day programme.